Now this is a hard one. This film is so insane and messed up that I don’t know if I will be able to properly review it without spoiling a few important elements of the film so consider this a spoiler warning. Now I’ve been looking forward to A Field In England for a while now for 2 reasons. Firstly, Ben Wheatley directing as I’m really interested in seeing what this guy would do after the brilliance of last years Sightseers. Secondly is the release of the film, this is the first film to be released in cinemas, on DVD/Blu-Ray, on VOD and shown on TV at the same time (by the way, I watched this film on TV). After watching the film, I have no idea what to think about it.
There isn’t really any point in describing the plot of the film as the film is more of an atmospheric piece that a story piece, the only real story is a group of English Civil War deserters go in search of an alehouse but, under the influence of magic mushrooms, are captured and forced to hunt for treasure buried in a field. This is both the main strength and the main weakness of the film, in that when the film fully goes off the rails and goes fully disturbing the film is excellent, the highlight being, what I will call, the Rope Scene. However, when the film slows down it slows down way too much and the first half of the film is actually quite boring with the only real life in the film coming in after Michael Smiley joins the film. This is also not helped by the script which switches wildly from traditional, English Civil War era dialogue, to more modern style threats, to the absolute insane ramblings of some characters. There is also the fact that some points of the film get a bit too weird for my liking, particularly in the last half hour of the film. This is not an easy film to watch between the boring elements in the first half and the insane elements of the second half and, while I can see why some people would be attracted to this, it didn’t attract me.
There are two elements of the film though that I would say are worth watching this film to see: Michael Smiley and Reece Sheersmith. Smiley is just terrifying as O’Neil, an incredible force of nature performance. I was constantly in fear of just how far he would go to get the treasure in the field and he dominates the screen whenever he is on. On the other end Sheersmith gives a more refined performance, his portrayal of Whitehead really nails the cowardly nature of the character and also has a great grasp on the Civil War era dialogue of the film. The best scenes in the film though are when Sheersmith and Smiley are together as they really sell the rivalry between the characters, but it’s clear that O’Neil always dominates Whitehead and we can see how powerful O’Neil is through Smiley dominating over Sheersmith when they are on screen together.
The technical aspects of the film meanwhile are really impressive. I can’t really complain about the scenery since the film is called A Field In England. The black-and-white look of the film is gorgeous and when the kaleidoscopic visuals in the final half hour of the film kick in the mix between that and the black-and-white look is incredible, a lot of credit has to go to Director of Photography Laurie Rose for just how beautiful the film looks. The music meanwhile, whilst simple at times, perfectly fits the tone of the film, from the music written for the film fitting with the whole buried treasure feel of the film, to an incredible re-purposing of Ring a Ring O’ Roses which helps make the Rope Scene as disturbing as it is.
Overall though, this is really a case of whether or not the insanity of the film works for you and, whilst I do recommend watching it to see just how brilliant Reece Sheersmith and Michael Smiley are, this film will not please everyone and, despite the brilliant performances, this film did not work for me on a whole.
My Rating: 2.5/5